New biosphere reserve in Argentina

This video is called Península Valdés, Argentina.

From Wildlife Extra:

A vast coastal wildlife haven in Argentina declared a Biosphere Reserve

Four million acres of wildlife-rich land in southern Argentina has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Península Valdés is situated on a rugged peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Patagonia in the Chubut Province, and is teeming with wildlife.

It has the largest breeding colony of southern elephant seals in South America and supports more than 70,000 pairs of Magellanic penguins, over 10,000 South American sea lions, cormorants, gulls, terns, and nearly 4,000 southern right whales. On land the peninsula sustains over 4,000 guanacos and some of the highest densities of maras and Darwin’s rheas in Patagonia.

The new reserve includes a previously unprotected area known as Punta Ninfas, where large numbers of elephant seals, South American sea lions, imperial cormorants, terns and Magellanic penguins live.

This area is under threat from three nearby large cities and uncontrolled access by people using off-road vehicles. The new Biosphere designation draws attention to the urgent need for ensuring the protection of wildlife here.

“Península Valdés is one of the great natural wonders of Latin America with greater concentrations of wildlife than any other area on the entire coast of Patagonia,” said WCS President and CEO Cristián Samper.

“Making this incredible area region a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the culmination of years of hard work by many great partners.”

Diplodocid dinosaur discovery in Argentina

This video is called Long-Necked Dinosaur Found In Argentina.

From Associated Press:

Dinosaur find tests theories on extinctions


Saturday, June 14, 2014 8:27pm

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Dinosaur fossils found in Patagonia provide the first evidence that long-necked, whip-tailed diplodocid sauropods survived well beyond the Jurassic period, when they were thought to have gone extinct, Argentine paleontologists said.

Pablo Gallina, a researcher at Buenos Aires’ Maimonides University, described the find as the first definitive evidence that diplodocids reached South America and the most recent geologic record of this branch of sauropod anywhere.

“It was a surprise, because the first remains we found were very deteriorated, and we didn’t think much of them, but later through careful laboratory work, cleaning rock from the bones, we could see that they were from a diplodocid, something unthinkable for South America.”

Gallina’s team says the fossils show that diplodocids roamed South America during the early Cretaceous era, well after scientists thought these kinds of dinosaurs became extinct. They also suggest that the diplodocid clade, or family group, evolved from other dinosaurs before the Earth’s continents split apart, which is earlier than previously thought.

“Diplodocids were never certainly recognized from the Cretaceous or in any other southern land mass besides Africa,” the authors wrote. “The new discovery represents the first record of a diplodocid for South America and the stratigraphically youngest record of this clade anywhere.”

Explaining the find after the conclusions were published in the PLOS ONE scientific journal, they said the eight vertebrae they recovered belong to a new species they named “Leinkupal laticauda.” That’s a combination of native Mapuche words for “vanishing” and “family,” and Latin words for “wide” and “tail.”

The remains were found in rocky outcrops of the “Bajada Colorada,” a Cretaceous-era formation south of the town of Picun Leufu in Neuquen province.

Paleobiologist Paul Upchurch at University College London, a sauropod expert who was not involved in the study, said it suggests that not all diplodocids succumbed to a mass extinction about 140 million years ago at the end of the Jurassic period.

“Here’s evidence that one or two groups got through. Rather than a total extinction, that it was devastating, but it didn’t completely kill them off,” Upchurch said.

As for the conclusion that the South American find shows diplodocids evolved from a common ancestor earlier than previously thought, Upchurch said “there’s certainly a possibility that this would push the origin back a bit,” given that Africa and South America separated during the Jurassic period. “I’ve been arguing for a long time that these species developed in the middle Jurassic, so for me this isn’t a problem, but others think it happened a bit later,” Upchurch said.

Upchurch also expressed confidence in the claim of a new species, saying “we know enough about sauropods now to get a fairly good idea of what stands out as a diagnosing feature for a new species.”

The research was partly funded by The Jurassic Foundation, formed by producers of the Jurassic Park films.

Sebastian Apesteguia, paleontology director at Maimonides University, noted that the characters in Jurassic Park II ride a motorcycle under a diplodocid’s legs.

“Until now the diplodocids were thought to be North American dinosaurs. They were the classic dinosaurs from all the Hollywood movies,” he said.

Biggest dinosaur ever discovered in Argentina?

This video says about itself:

16 May 2014

Palaeontologists in Argentina believe they have found bones belonging to the heaviest dinosaur to ever have walked the Earth – which had an estimated body mass of 77 tonnes.

They found bones belonging to seven individuals from a new species of titanosaur, which has yet to be named – and calculated the approximate size of the largest one by measuring the diameter of the femur and the humerus bones.

In this video, Dr Diego Pol explains how the measuring process works.

From the Daily Mirror in Britain:

Is this the biggest dinosaur ever discovered? Scientists uncover 80-tonne herbivore weighing the same as 14 elephants

May 17, 2014 08:50

By Richard Hartley-Parkinson

Titanosaur bones that are around 95 million years old were discovered in a desert in Patagonia

Scientists believe they have discovered dinosaur bones belonging to the largest creature that ever existed.

Discovered in Argentina, paleontologists estimate that it weighed 80 tonnes – the equivalent of 14 African elephants.

It was discovered by a farm worker in the desert 135 miles from Trelew, Patagonia.

Paleontologists from the Museum of Palaentology are now examining the herbivorous titanosaur which existed in the Cretaceous period and the bones are believed to be 95 million years old.

Seven huge dinosaurs were discovered at the site and the bones are described as being in a remarkable state of preservation.

They would have had a small skull but a very long neck and tail.

“It’s like two semi trucks, one after another, and the equivalent of more than 14 African elephants together in weight,” says José Luis Carballido, the dinosaur specialist in charge of the study.

“Such dimensions put the focus on the extent to which these animals may have grown. It’s a real paleontological treasure,” he added.

Because the dinosaurs were found so close together, along with a number of carnivorous dinosaurs, it is believed that they may have died during a drought. It is possible that they died of dehydration or became stuck in the mud.

The carnivores may have ended up there to feed on the flesh of the huge dinosaurs.

Further analysis of the place where they were found suggests that the area was different to how it looks today.

Rather than a dry, arid land, it is likely that there were trees and and a wide variety of plant-life.

Is it reallt the biggest dinosaur? Here.

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Argentine microbiologist, critic of Monsanto, dies

This video says about itself:

Andres Carrasco – Results of a Case Study of Glyphosate/Roundup

2 July 2012

Andres Carrasco, MD, is head of the Molecular Embryology Laboratory at University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and chief scientist at the National Council for Science and Technology (CONICET), Argentina.

The Carrasco laboratory investigates glyphosate/Roundup herbicide and birth defects

Carrasco’s findings gave scientific credibility to reports of people in Argentina who claimed escalating rates of birth defects and cancers after the introduction of genetically modified soy, which is engineered to tolerate being sprayed with huge amounts of glyphosate.

In June 2011, Earth Open Source published a report by a group of international scientists, “Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?” which examined the original approval documents for glyphosate and found that industry’s own studies from as long ago as the 1980s-1990s (including some commissioned by Monsanto) showed that glyphosate causes birth defects in laboratory animals, specifically rabbits and rats.

From Associated Press today:

Argentine scientist who challenged Monsanto dies

12 minutes ago by Michael Warren

Dr. Andres Carrasco, an Argentine neuroscientist who challenged pesticide regulators to re-examine one of the world’s most widely used weed killers, has died. He was 67.

Argentina’s national science council announced Carrasco’s death on Saturday. He had been in declining health.

Carrasco, a molecular biologist at the University of Buenos Aires and past-president of Argentina’s CONICET science council, was a widely published expert in embryonic development whose work focused on how neurotransmitters affect genetic expression in vertebrates. But none of his research generated as much controversy as his 2010 study on glyphosate, which became a major public relations challenge for the St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto Company.

Glyphosate is the key ingredient in Monsanto‘s Roundup brand of pesticides, which have combined with genetically modified “Roundup-Ready” plants to dramatically increase the spread of industrial agriculture around the world. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators have labeled it reasonably safe to use if applied properly. But few countries enforce pesticide rules as rigorously as the United States, and farming’s spread has increasingly exposed people to glyphosate and other chemicals.

Carrasco, principal investigator at his university’s Cellular Biology and Neuroscience Institute, told The Associated Press in a 2013 interview that he had heard reports of increasing birth defects in farming communities after genetically modified crops were approved for use in Argentina, and so decided to test the impact of glyphosate on frog and chicken embryos in his laboratory.

His team’s study, published in the peer-reviewed Chemical Research in Toxicology journal, found that injecting very low doses of glyphosate into embryos can change levels of retinoic acid, causing the same sort of spinal defects that doctors are increasingly registering in communities where farm chemicals are ubiquitous. Retinoic acid, a form of vitamin A, is fundamental for keeping cancers in check and triggering genetic expression, the process by which embryonic cells develop into organs and limbs.

“If it’s possible to reproduce this in a laboratory, surely what is happening in the field is much worse,” Carrasco told the AP. “And if it’s much worse, and we suspect that it is, what we have to do is put this under a magnifying glass.”

ARGENTINIAN molecular biologist Andres Carrasco, whose work on the pesticide glyphosate became a major headache for biotechnology conglomerate Monsanto, died this weekend aged 67: here.

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New tarantula discoveries in Argentina, one species named after musician Atahualpa Yupanqui

This video from Mexico says about itself:

The Mexican red rump tarantula is a large jet black spider with bright red hairs on its abdomen. Although little is known about the biology of the ‘vagans’, as is with most tarantulas, adult females are normally 5- 7.5 cm in body length, with a leg span up to 13 cm. Adult males are usually smaller and shorter.

Vibrant example of the “red rump” a.k.a. Brachypelma vagans. Mexican red-rumps are nocturnal predators, feeding on ground-dwelling insects, arachnids, crustaceans and more. Just like the common Chilean rose hair tarantula, it has irritating bristle hairs on its abdomen used as a defense against other predators.

From Wildlife Extra:

Three new tarantula species discovered

Three new tarantula species have been found in northern Argentina by a team of scientists from the Universidad de La República, Uruguay.

These new tarantula species belong to the subfamily Theraphosinae, which are distributed exclusively in the Americas, with the greatest diversity is found in South America.

Melloleitaoina mutquina, has been named after Mutquín, where this species is distributed, while M. uru was inspired [on] an ancient legend [in] Quichua, from the northern limit of Argentina, about the Inca princess Uru, who because of her whims and bad government was transformed by the gods into a spider and forced to endlessly work weaving. Lastly, the third new species M. yupanqui, was named to honour the most important Argentine musician of folklore Atahualpa Yupanqui.

These often hairy and very large spiders known as tarantulas are one of the most famous arachnid groups. Despite their ill fame as vicious killers most tarantulas are harmless to humans. Most tarantulas have a long lifespan, in particular females who can live between 15 and 30 years.

This music video is called Atahualpa Yupanqui – 1957 – Camino del Indio.

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Whales counted from space

This video is called Breeding Southern Right Whales – Attenborough – Life of Mammals – BBC.

From the BBC:

12 February 2014 Last updated at 23:04 GMT

Scientists count whales from space

By Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent, BBC News

Scientists have demonstrated a new method for counting whales from space.

It uses very high-resolution satellite pictures and image-processing software to automatically detect the great mammals at or near the ocean surface.

A test count, reported in the journal Plos One, was conducted on southern right whales in the Golfo Nuevo on the coast of Argentina.

The automated system found about 90% of creatures pinpointed in a manual search of the imagery.

This is a huge improvement on previous attempts at space-borne assessment, and could now revolutionise the way whale populations are estimated.

Currently, such work is done through counts conducted from a shore position, from the deck of a ship or from a plane. But these are necessarily narrow in scope.

An automated satellite search could cover a much larger area of ocean and at a fraction of the cost.

“Our study is a proof of principle,” said Peter Fretwell from the British Antarctic Survey.

“But as the resolution of the satellites increases and our image analysis improves, we should be able to monitor many more species and in other types of location.

“It should be possible to do total population counts and in the future track the trajectory of those populations,” he told the Inside Science programme on BBC Radio 4.

The breakthrough is in part down to the capability of the latest hi-res satellites.

In this study, Mr Fretwell and colleagues used DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 platform.

This is among the most powerful commercial Earth observation platforms in operation today, and can see surface features down to 50cm in size in its panchromatic mode (black and white).

The team selected as their test area a 113-sq-km segment of the Golfo Nuevo on the Peninsula Valdes, a location famed for its gatherings of calving southern right whales.

Even though these are large animals, they still only take up a few pixels in the satellite picture.

Nonetheless, a manual search of the scene found 55 probable whales, 23 possible whales and 13 sub-surface features.

Several automated methods where then trialled, with the best results coming from a combination of the very hi-res panchromatic view and a narrow band of wavelengths in the violet part (400-450 nanometres) of the light spectrum.

This coastal band, as it is known, penetrates 15m or so into the water column in good conditions.

The automated approach found 89% of probable whales identified in the manual count.

Different bands

WorldView-2 has spectral bands that allow scientists to pull out specific information in the imagery

Mr Fretwell cautions that there are limitations to the technique. For example, rough seas or murky waters will confound a search. But he believes, on the basis of the trial study, that satellite counting can become a very useful conservation tool.

“In this type of automated analysis you have to balance two types of errors – errors where you miss whales, and errors where you misidentify whales. If you push too hard one way, like trying to catch all the whales, you’ll increase the number of false positives. With our 90%, we had almost no misidentifications,” the researcher explained.

Southern right whales were a very appropriate target for the study.

These animals were driven to near-extinction in the early 20th Century. Recognised as slow, shallow swimmers, they were the “right” whales to hunt.

Their numbers have seen something of a recovery, but without the means to carry out an accurate census, it is hard to know their precise status.

Concern has also been raised of late because of the sightings of many dead calves in the nursery grounds around the Peninsula Valdes.

Prof Vicky Rowntree from the University of Utah is the director of the Ocean Alliance’s Southern Right Whale Program, and has spent many years studying the Valdes whales.

She said the new method would be a huge boon to her field of research.

“It’s going to be absolutely amazing. The other dimension of it is that many marine mammal researchers have been killed flying in small planes while surveying whales. So my great desire is to get us out of small planes circling over whales and to be able to do it remotely. Satellite data is wonderful.”

To hear more about southern right whales and satellite counting, listen to Inside Science with Lucie Green on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday at 1630 GMT.

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Argentine poet Juan Gelman, RIP

This video says about itself:

24 Jan 2014

Professor Ilan Stavans reads “End” by Argentine poet Juan Gelman, who died Tuesday at the age of 83.

By Rafael Azul:

Argentine poet Juan Gelman dies in Mexico City at 83

Juan Gelman, the celebrated Argentine poet, died in Mexico City on January 14, 2014. He was 83 years old and had lived in the Mexican capital since 1988. In addition to his poetry, he wrote a weekly column for the Buenos Aires daily Página 12.

Gelman, a prolific poet since childhood, published his first poem at the age of 11 in an anarchist journal (Rojo y Negro—Red and Black). He died a supporter of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her faction of the bourgeois Peronist party.

Between those two bookends was a lifetime of literary and political activism. Gelman was considered one of the most important Spanish-language poets, as well as a fighter against the Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s.

Gelman came from a family of Ukrainian immigrants. His father, José, who had participated in the 1905 Revolution in Russia, first arrived in Buenos Aires in 1912. Following the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917, José, a railroad worker, returned to the Soviet Union. He left again, in 1928. (In 1957, Gelman learned that his father had been profoundly disillusioned by the expulsion of Leon Trotsky from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and his forced exile). Gelman’s brother, Boris, introduced him to the poetry of Alexander Pushkin and triggered the future author’s commitment to poetry and journalism.

He spent his youth during the years of oppressive military regimes known in Argentina as the “infamous decade,” the period between the bourgeois-radical regime of Hipólito Yrigoyen, overthrown in 1930, and the military coup of 1943. These were years characterized by class polarization and powerful strike movements of the working class.

Gelman was 13 at the time of the June 1943 coup that three years later brought Juan Domingo Peron to the presidency.

The Second World War spurred the growth of industry in Argentina. The industrial suburbs of Buenos Aires, along with Córdoba, attracted immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, as well as workers from the nation’s interior. This phenomenon was accompanied by the growth of an urban middle class, on which the Peronist regime based itself.

In 1945, notwithstanding his father’s anecdotal sympathy for Trotsky, Gelman, a 15-year-old student in the elite high school Colegio Nacional Buenos Aires, joined the Stalinist Federación Juvenil Comunista (FJC, Communist Youth Federation).

Gelman continued to write and in the 1950s became part of the “Dry Bread” (Pan Duro) poetry group, a literary collective made up of Communist Party youth. In 1954, he became editor of the Communist Party newspaper La Hora and a correspondent for the Xinhua Chinese news agency. He published his first volume of poems, Violín, in 1956. In 1959, he published a second volume, El juego que andamos.

These volumes were followed by many others, including Los poemas de Sydney West, Bajo la lluvia ajena and Hacia el Sur.

Under the impact of the Cuban Revolution and Che Guevara’s guerrilla ideology, a split from the FJC formed the Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, FAR), which Gelman joined in 1967. Initially set up as an adjunct to Guevara’s ill-fated guerrilla operation in Bolivia, the FAR modeled itself after 1967 on Uruguay’s Tupamaro urban guerrillas. In 1973, it merged with the Montoneros, its Peronist counterpart.

It was against the FAR that the Argentine government in 1971, with the assistance of the Peronist union bureaucracy, unleashed the CIA-backed wave of kidnappings, torture and extra-judicial killings, with horrifying consequences for Argentina’s youth and working class. The disappearances escalated under Peron’s second government, and that of Isabel Peron (1972-1976), and finally during the military dictatorship that replaced it in 1976. Tens of thousands died in the repression.

In 1975, the Montoneros sent Gelman to Rome as part of a campaign to denounce the disappearances and other violations of human rights. A year later, in August 1976, Gelman’s 19-year-old daughter, Nora Eva, his 20-year-old son, Marcelo Ariel, and his daughter-in-law, María Claudia, also 19, were kidnapped by the regime. María Claudia, seven months pregnant, was sent to Uruguay, and kept alive until she gave birth. Nora Eva was freed. Marcelo was killed. María Claudia’s body was never found.

Gelman’s granddaughter was one of the scores of babies born to “disappeared” mothers and then handed over to families of security force members; the poet searched for her for many years until she was found in 2000.

The abductions would transform Gelman’s life. He campaigned to bring his son’s executioners to justice and searched for his missing grandchild. In 1979, he broke with the Montonero organization. In a rambling article published in 2001 in Página 12 (“Ajá”), he repudiated Montonero leader Mario Firmenich, for “suicidal policies” both before and after the 1976 military coup.

By breaking with what he called a “militarist delirium” in 1979, Gelman considered that he himself had prevented even more deaths. In this declaration, Gelman also indicted some of the Montonero leaders who went on later to become high officials in the right-wing Peronist government of Carlos Menem (1989-1999).

Upon his death, the Argentine government declared three days of official mourning.

Gelman’s extensive body of poetry brings together European and Latin American influences. He also published verse in the Sephardic Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish) language. He was a wordsmith, who took pride in modifying grammar, gender and usage in his poems.

Many of his later poems suggest a romantic tenderness and nostalgia, like this one invoking the disappeared—including his own children—who were thrown from planes into the sea or buried in unmarked graves:

If the waves sweetly lapped over your head…

If the waves sweetly lapped over your head

of the one that leapt into the sea / what about the brothers

that they buried? / do their fingers sprout little leaves? / trees? / autumns

that defoliate them as if voiceless? / in silence

brothers recall the time

they were two three fingers from death / they smile

remembering / relieved still

as if they had not died / as if

Paco could still shine and Rodolfo still gaze

over everything forgotten that he used to drag

on his shoulder / with Harold examining his bitterness (always)

bringing out the ace of spades / his mouth to the wind /

aspired life / lives / his eyes gazed upon the terrible one /

now they are talking about when

luck was on their side / no one did kill / no one was killed / the enemy

was mocked and a little of the general humiliation

was retrieved / with bravery / with dreams / on the ground

with all the comrades / in silence /

melting into the January night /

still at last / totally alone / with no kisses

[Si dulcemente por tu cabeza pasaban las olas...

si dulcemente por tu cabeza pasaban las olas

del que se tiró al mar / ¿qué pasa con los hermanitos

que entierraron? / ¿hojitas les crecen de los dedos? / ¿arbolitos / otoños

que los deshojan como mudos? / en silencio

los hermanitos hablan de la vez

que estuvieron a dostres dedos de la muerte / sonríen

recordando / aquel alivio sienten todavía

como si no hubieran morido / como si

paco brillara y rodolfo mirase

toda la olvidadera que solía arrastrar

colgándole del hombro / o haroldo hurgando su amargura (siempre)

sacase el as de espadas / puso su boca contra el viento /

aspiró vida / vidas / con sus ojos miró la terrible /

pero ahora están hablando de cuando

operaron con suerte / nadie mató / nadie fue muerto / el enemigo

fue burlado y un poco de la humillación general

se rescató / con corajes / con sueños / tendidos

en todo eso los compañeros / mudos /

deshuesándose en la noche de enero /

quietos por fin / solísimos / sin besos]

Gelman was honored with numerous awards in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Spain. He received Argentina’s National Poetry Prize in 1997, and he was the recipient in 2007 of the prestigious Cervantes Prize, awarded by the Ministry of Culture in Spain for lifetime achievement by a writer in the Spanish language.

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Spanish fascists threaten survivors of Franco dictatorship

'Crazy whore you are going to die' and nazi swastika, graffiti on Franco dictatorship survivor Gema Carretero's house

By Vicky Short and Paul Mitchell:

Spain: Fascists intimidate plaintiffs in Franco-era crimes case

20 January 2014

Fascists are intimidating plaintiffs who have launched a lawsuit investigating the crimes committed by the forces of General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the dictatorship that followed.

During that period up to 400,000 people were killed or disappeared and up to 300,000 children were abducted from jailed or executed parents. Not one Francoist official has ever been held responsible. …

Nothing has been done about the recent fascist intimidation either. One plaintiff, Gema Carretero from Leganés, a satellite-city of the capital Madrid, describes in her online petition, that “I am threatened with death by extreme right groups. You have only to see the photo. And no one listens to me when I ask for protection, I ask you for help.

“My name is Gema, and my father was killed by the dictatorship in 1965. Because of a lack of justice in Spain I had to go to Argentina to make a complaint to the judge Servini seeking justice in a prosecution for crimes against humanity in the war, after the war and the dictatorship.

“And for that reason there are people who live near my house that keep harassing me and threatening me. I have recently experienced graffiti in large letters on the front of my house, bearing the swastika, containing serious insults and death threats.

“I proceeded to denounce the situation. I met with the City Council and made a complaint to the court, but nothing has been done to defend our personal integrity. They have also smashed our door lamps and sprayed the neighbourhood with abrasive products.

“I’m terrified, I have fear and I fear for the safety of my family.

“Therefore I ask that you support me with your signature, to request that the Ministry of Interior and the Leganés Council undertake to provide the necessary protection for my family and the people, who like us, are threatened with death by right-wing terrorist groups.”

Because successive Spanish governments have not only refused to investigate these crimes in Spain but have severely punished those who have attempted to do so, Carretero and other relatives of those murdered by the Franco regime have sought justice in Argentina. A lawsuit was filed there in April 2010 by human rights lawyers in the name of six relatives who now live in that country.

Behind the lawsuit is Spain’s Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory. Set up shortly after the Zapatero Socialist Party (PSOE) government came to office in 2004, it was intended as an exercise in damage control over rising demands for a proper investigation of the Franco period, and has no teeth or authority. Also involved is Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who was debarred in 2010 when he attempted to start an investigation into the torture and executions under the Franco regime and declared them crimes against humanity.

Argentine Federal Judge María Servini de Cubría was appointed to investigate the accusations under international law, in which crimes against humanity have no limitations or jurisdictional boundaries.

As soon as the lawsuit was launched, the present right-wing Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy pressured the Argentinean government not to allow Servini to use the Argentine Embassy in Spain to interview the victims and relatives, and also put every obstacle imaginable in the way of obtaining interviews over the Internet. As a result, over 200 plaintiffs and their lawyers have been forced to fly to Buenos Aires to give evidence, with hundreds more unable to go because of the cost or old age.

In September 2013, Servini issued international arrest warrants for four former Spanish officials accused of torture, only two of whom are still alive—policemen José Antonio González Pacheco, known as “Billy the Kid,” and Jesús Muñecas Aguilar. Only after pressure from the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances did Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardón reluctantly acknowledge the extradition requests and confiscate their passports.

This month, Servini has indicted 11 former Francoist ministers who are still alive, including José María López de Letona (Industry Minister 1969-74), Licinio de la Fuente (Labour Minister 1969-75), Alberto Monreal (Finance Minister 1969-73), Antonio Barrera (Finance Minister 1973-74), Fernando Liñán (Information and Tourism Minister 1973-74), Antonio Carro (Head of the Ministry of the Presidency 1974-75), Fernando Suárez (Labour Minister 1975), José María Sánchez-Ventura (Justice Minister 1975), José Utrera (Housing Minister 1973-74), and Rodolfo Martín (Interior Minister 1976-79).

However, Servini declared, “I want to clear up the fact that the ministers’ personal histories are not being scrutinized here, but simply their roles as active ministers in the Franco regime, which had a policy of committing gross violations of human rights.”

Servini’s conciliatory sentiments were echoed by Galician Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory secretary, Rubén Afonso Lobato, who said, “We have no special grudge against these people but we simply want them to tell us what they did and for them to be judged for their actions. No matter how old they are, they still have to own up to their actions.”

This week equally conciliatory statements were made by lawyers from the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory and other human rights organisations, who are pleading with Spain’s National Court chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza to be the “voice” of the victims and allow the extradition of Pacheco and Aguilar. In what is clearly an attempt to thwart the Argentine case, Zaragoza said that he would be willing to open a lawsuit in Spain “because those were crimes committed by and against Spanish people,” only to add, “If the case were opened, we should take into account the amnesty and the statute of limitations on legal claims.”

In the unlikely event the National Court ordered the extradition, the Council of Ministers would be able to veto the decision.

The author also recommends:

Relatives of Franco’s victims testify in Argentine courts
[17 December 2013]

Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón debarred for 11 years
[14 February 2012]

Spain’s Garzón acquitted for investigation of Franco-era crimes
[9 March 2012]

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New national park in Chile

This video is called Wildlife of Tierra del Fuego Park, Argentina.

From Chile:

New National Park to be created in Chile

By Martin Fowlie, Wed, 15/01/2014 – 14:49

Tierra del Fuego, Chile will gain a spectacular new national park through a landmark public-private collaboration between President Sebastian Piñera and Fundación Yendegaia, a branch of Douglas and Kristine Tompkins’ conservation projects. Fundación Yendegaia will donate the former Estancia Yendegaia (94,000 acres) toward the creation of the new national park, while the Chilean government will annex 276,000 acres of adjacent government land, to be upgraded to national park status. The new park will be among Chile’s largest, only slightly smaller than the iconic and nearby Torres del Paine National Park.

The Tompkins were recently awarded a BirdLife Conservation Achievement Award at BirdLife’s World Congress in Ottawa, Canada.

Protecting 370,000 acres of mountains, glaciers, rare sub-Antarctic forest, lakes, and rivers, the park stretches from the Darwin Range to the Argentine border, and from the Beagle Channel to Fagnago Lake. Yendegaia creates a contiguous biological corridor between Chile’s Alberto D’Agostini National Park and Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park. The new park protects the last frontier of pristine sub-Antarctic beech forest, one of Earth’s largest remnants of Gondwana, the last supercontinent from 180 million years ago. Long declared a “Priority Site for Conservation,” the area provides key habitat for three species in danger of extinction (red fox, river otter, and ruddy-headed geese), and a broad range of native flora and fauna, included 128 vascular plant species and 49 bird species.

Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 104 – Darwin’s Fox: here.

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